Geisinger Health System and Highmark announce plans to create a new community-based clinical network

Geisinger Health System faciliity
Geisinger Health System and Highmark announced on Wednesday that they signed a letter of intent to create a clinical joint venture in north central Pennsylvania.

Add Geisinger Health System and Highmark Inc. to the growing list of provider-payer collaborations.

The physician-led system, which covers more than 3 million residents in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and Highmark, one of the largest health insurers in the United States, announced on Wednesday that they signed a letter of intent to create a clinical joint venture in north central Pennsylvania.

Details of the actual venture are scarce, but the organizations said in an announcement that the letter of intent will allow them to explore the partnership in greater detail. They aim to develop a new clinical network model that will provide “high-value, high-quality community-based care and greater patient choice for healthcare consumers and businesses.”

Deborah Rice-Johnson, president of Highmark Health Plan, said that together the organizations can provide affordable, high-quality care via a new innovative, consumer-centered care model in north central Pennsylvania, initially in Lycoming, Clinton, Tioga and Sullivan counties. If successful, the organizations may expand the model to other locations.

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The partnership aims to develop a patient-focused, physician-oriented and community-based clinical network that will be open to Highmark and Geisinger Health Plan members, including those in Medicare Advantage Plans, as well as members of other insurance plans not affiliated with the two organizations, Lynn Miller, Geisinger's executive vice president and chief administrative officer for Clinical Enterprise, said Wednesday during a conference call with news reporters.

Although the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the state’s largest integrated health system, has refused to accept Highmark’s insurance coverage in the western part of the state, Rice-Johnson said Highmark does not intend to close off care access to UPMC members. Furthermore, she told reporters that although the venture will compete with UPMC, it was not established to directly compete with the system.

As part of the new venture, the organizations intend to create a network of community-based sites, including a new campus in the Montoursville area. The size, cost, exact location and timetable for building the new facility, however, has yet to be determined.

“The goal of this new facility will be to deliver important medical services and clinical capabilities in the local community that are complementary to the advanced tertiary services available at Geisinger Medical Center,” said Miller. “We are currently assessing community needs and levels of appropriate investment to meet those needs.”

The new venture and the facility will expand on the services Geisinger already provides in north central Pennsylvania, including physician practice sites offering both primary care and subspecialty outreach services in Montoursville and Lock Haven, a CareWorks urgent care facility in Williamsport, a pediatric specialty services practice in South Williamsport, a Life Flight helicopter base in Montoursville, and the new Geisinger Gastroenterology and Geisinger Endoscopy sites in Montoursville.